7 Visa and Green Card Options for Investors, Entrepreneurs, and Business Professionals
If you're an investor or entrepreneur, and you are considering ways to get a visa or green card to the United States, this article is for you. We are going to talk about 7 options for investors, entrepreneurs, and business professionals to obtain immigration benefits to the U.S.
We are Ashoori Law, led by Michael Ashoori, U.S. immigration lawyer based in Los Angeles, California. At our law firm we work with clients from all over the world, and we regularly post articles and videos to make sure that you are up to date with the latest immigration news. If, after reading this article, you have more questions, then we invite you to contact us by calling or texting us at +1-818-741-1117 or you may request a free consultation by clicking this link.
Option 1 – The E2 Visa
The E2 visa is a tremendous option for business professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors looking to come to the United States. The way the E2 works is that it allows somebody to invest in a U.S. business. You can either start a new business or purchase an existing business. Based on making that investment, if you are approved for an E2 visa, you can live in the United States and can operate your business. Also, the E2 visa allows you to continue to renew your visa without limit, as long as you continue to satisfy the E2 visa requirements.
Moreover, the E2 visa allows the spouse of the E2 visa holder to get their own E2 visa and to apply for work authorization. This means that your spouse can also potentially qualify to work in the United States. Your unmarried children under 21 years old can potentially also qualify for an E2 visa and can attend school in the United States as well.
What are some of the E2 requirements?
First, you would have to make a substantial investment in a U.S. business. You can either start a business or purchase an existing business. Also, you must be from a country that has an E2 treaty with the United States.
If you, however, are not from an E2 treaty country, all hope is not lost. You may be able to obtain citizenship to a country that does have a treaty with the U.S., and then you would be eligible to apply for the E2 visa.
Some other requirements for the E2 visa include:
- The business that you're investing in has to be an active, for-profit business.
- You have to deposit the investment funds into the U.S. business’s bank accounts.
- You have to put your investment funds “At risk” by spending the money towards your business, which can be on inventory, supplies, anything that is needed for your business. In some cases, you can potentially put your investment funds at risk through the use of an escrow account.
So, how much do you need to invest for an E2 visa?
Well, there is no specific dollar amount listed that must be invested. However, our law firm typically recommends an investment of at least $100,000. That said, investments for less than that can potentially qualify.
Option 2 – The L1 Visa
The L1 visa is also a powerful option for entrepreneurs and business professionals to operate a business in the United States. The L1 visa is known as the “intracompany transferee” visa. The way the L1 visa works is that there must be a foreign company (a non-U.S. company) and a U.S. company. The two companies must have a qualifying relationship.
With the L1 visa, the idea is that someone working for a foreign company can transfer to work for a related U.S. company. If there is no U.S. company, then you may potentially set up a newly formed U.S. company that satisfies the L1 visa requirements.
Then, through the L1 visa, the L1 visa beneficiary may transfer from the foreign company to the U.S. company.
This is a wonderful option for entrepreneurs, as the owner of a company can qualify for an L1 visa if the requirements are met.
There are quite a few requirements for the L1 visa. Some of the most important are:
- The U.S. company and the foreign company must have some sort of qualifying relationship. Some examples of qualifying relationships include a parent-subsidiary relationship; an affiliate relationship; or a branch office relationship.
- The individual being transferred to the U.S. company must have worked in the foreign company for at least one year within the last three years, full time, in continuous employment as either a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker.
- The individual being transferred to the U.S. company must be coming to the U.S. company to work as either a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker.
Option 3 – The O1 Visa
This visa option is for people who have an extraordinary ability in a particular field. Let’s say you have an extraordinary ability in science, math, athletics, or some other qualifying field; then, you can potentially qualify for an O1 visa to come to the United States and work in your field. Given that this article is focused on business professionals, you should know that it is possible to obtain an O1 visa for extraordinary ability in business.
How exactly can you prove that you have extraordinary ability? Well, the way USCIS determines whether somebody has an “extraordinary ability” is by looking at multiple categories. If you can satisfy three of those categories, then you could potentially qualify for an O1 visa.
Here are a few examples of some of those categories:
- Whether you have received certain prizes or awards in your field
- Whether you have a high salary or high compensation compared to others in your field
- Whether there is published material about you in a major media publication
- Whether you have acted as a judge of the work of others in your field
As noted, there are multiple categories. Proof of satisfying at least three of those categories is required for USCIS to find that you are, indeed, someone with extraordinary ability.
Option 4 – The International Entrepreneur Parole Program
This is an option for people who have a startup company in the United States. Through the International Entrepreneur Parole Program, somebody who has a startup company, with ownership in that company, can potentially come to the United States under the Parole authority of the Department of Homeland Security. There are multiple requirements for the International Entrepreneur Parole Program. Here are just a few of the requirements:
- The startup company that you have ownership in must be a company that has the potential for rapid growth and job creation.
- The company must have been set up within the last five years.
- You must show that you have at least 10% ownership of the company
Option 5 – EB1C Visa
You can get a green card to the United States as an entrepreneur or business professional through the EB1C visa, also known as the multinational manager or executive visa. The way EB1C works is very similar to the L1 visa. There must be a foreign company and a U.S. company that have a qualifying relationship. Unlike the L1 visa, however, the EB1C visa requires the U.S. company to have been operational for at least one year.
The EB1C visa allows somebody who has worked for a foreign company for one year within the last three years, full time, as either a manager or an executive, to transfer to the United States to either work as a manager or executive for the related U.S. company.
Option 6 – EB-5 Visa
The EB-5 visa is an investment-based immigrant visa. The way this option works is that it allows somebody to invest in a U.S. business, similar to the E2 visa discussed above, but with some key differences.
The EB5 allows somebody to invest in a U.S. business, which can either be a startup company or they can purchase an equity share of an existing business (if the requirements are met). You, as the investor, are required to invest either $900,000 or $1.8 million, depending on where your business is located. If your business is located in an area classified as a “targeted employment area” then you can qualify for the reduced investment amount of $900,000. To be clear, a “targeted employment area” is an area that's either experiencing above average unemployment or it's a rural area.
In addition to making investments at the appropriate amount, your investment must ultimately lead to the creation of 10 full time jobs for U.S. workers. Additionally, your investment funds must come from a lawful source. There are additional requirements as well.
Option 7 – EB1A Visa
The EB1A visa is for people who have extraordinary ability in a particular field. Recall earlier that the O1 visa is for people who have extraordinary ability. The EB1A visa is similar to the O1 visa, except that EB1A is an immigrant visa classification rather than a non-immigrant visa.
The EB1A visa is the employment-based, first preference, immigrant classification. It is designed to allow those at the top of their fields of expertise to benefit the economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States. One of the best aspects of the EB1A visa is that it is done through self-petition. This means that someone can apply on their own without the need for an employer to sponsor the petition.
Also similar to the O1 visa, to qualify for an EB1A, you must prove extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or another eligible field by showing that you fulfill 3 categories of enumerated criteria.
So there you have it. In this guide, we discussed 7 options to get either a visa or green card to the U.S. as an investor, entrepreneur, or business professional. If you have any questions, feel free to email us at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. Alternatively, you may request a free consultation by clicking this link.
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Michael Ashoori, Esq.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.
Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.
Got a question? Send me an email.